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Cemetery & Cemeteries

Cemeteries have an interesting history and tradition, much of which may not be known to many modern Americans. One, possibly startling, fact about the cemetery is that most do not intended to be permanent resting places for their occupants. After about 100 years, graves in many cemeteries are removed; their headstones destroyed, and remains distributed elsewhere – often underneath the foundation of new churches. The former cemeteries are then turned into parkland, construction sites for new development, or some other use that nearby residents deem to be a better use of the land. This is often done in urban areas that have overtaken the cemetery that were once in very rural areas. Because this has become the fate of many cemeteries in the last few decades, many municipalities have begun strongly discouraging the building of new cemeteries anywhere nears their territories. And, while it’s still very rare, at least one city – San Francisco, California -- has completely banned cemeteries in its city limits.

All of that said, it should be noted that most cemeteries less than 100 years old are well-cared-for, beautifully landscaped parcels of land where the memories of hundreds of families are on display in, often dramatic, splendor. While these cemeteries Cemeteries have an interesting and rich tradition in our cultureare open, any disturbance of a grave is considered a severe crime that his harshly punished. Families who have invested a lot of time, finances, patience - and most of all, love - into the memorial grave marker headstone of a lost loved one can greatly appreciate the protection of the final resting place.

Because large urban areas are often begging for new space (especially in older cities) these types of cemeteries are slowly becoming less practical than they were, say, 200 years ago, but they are still quite popular, and quite in demand. City planners, and many environmental groups, often say they expect the rise of cremation to, gradually, make today’s modern, lush cemeteries all but obsolete in a few decades, but that view is debatable. Today the cemetery is still in heavy demand, and, in many cases, even the ashes of people who have been cremated are buried alongside traditional graves in modern cemeteries.

Just as the death care industry in itself has greatly changed, cemeteries have varied dramatically among cultures over the years to the practices that are known today, and many say it is an all-around change for the better. The funeral industry has been regulated to offer more options for memorial consumers, and many regulations in cemeteries have been updated to ensure better care for these very sacred sections of land. The well-landscaped, inviting, open cemeteries described above are just the common type in the United States today. In other nations, for example, cemeteries are a collection of small, fenced-in family plots, each with their own landscaping that is, typically, not as elaborate as that found in many American cemeteries; where gravesites are decorated with not only permanent tributes, but also small keepsakes left by grieving loved ones. Today the modern cemetery is often said to have their roots in a tradition that is anything but similar to the modern style: The Egyptian Pyramid, in which great leaders and their families and servants were buried together in giant, elaborately designed tombs, is said to be the ironic forefather of today’s cemeteries.

Because of their association with death, of course, cemeteries have almost always been associated with mysterious legends and even superstitious. A number of offbeat, strange, and even illicit religions are believed to use cemeteries – usually illegally – for strange nighttime ceremonies. But, despite the lore, strange, supernatural happenings at cemeteries appear to be the exception, rather than the rule. Most people who work at, or live near, cemeteries report that they have never encountered any out the ordinary occurrences. For many, rather than being a spooky or mysterious place, a cemetery is seen as an essential part of the death care system, as it provides a place in which memories can be sustained, and loved ones can be remembered and honored.

In fact, as with other aspects of the memorial industry, the views on cemeteries has greatly evolved since the days when lore and superstition ran rampant. Whereas in the past, many were afraid to enter a cemetery unless absolutely necessary, today cemeteries are seen as peaceful, and even relaxing, places where one can go to not only pay their respects to a dearly departed soul, but also find a place of harmony in which to pray or reminisce over the memories they left.

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